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Digital Workspace End-User Computing
4 minute read

What Is a Virtual Machine (VM)?

A virtual machine (VM) is software or an application that provides all the benefits of a physical server without requiring the physical presence of the server location.

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A virtual machine is a digital resource that allows users to deploy apps and run platforms through an isolated sandbox instead of a traditional physical operating system. This software or application has all the benefits of a physical server but does not require the physical presence of the server location.  

Virtual computers have their own memory, CPU and storage capabilities with their own applications and operating systems. Their data can be accessed on an individual server, on a physical computer or in the cloud.  

In essence, a virtual machinegives your workers the freedom to work from any location.

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What types of virtual machines are there?

The majority of virtual machines come in two types. One is the systematic virtual machine that functions as its own operating system to be installed on any device.  

The second option is a process virtual machine that creates its own software-based interface on the device and can be closed out as simply as closing a tab. It does not require any installation or physical download, but the progress can be destroyed very quickly by doing something as simple as closing the tab.  

The perks of these environments are helpful for many fields. But they are especially beneficial for programmers and coders due to their ability to mimic and run Linux OS software systems and virtual machine language (Python, Java, etc.) on other systems, including Windows or Apple iOS.  

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Why use a virtual machine?

The question remains: Why would someone invest in this type of system instead of buying additional Linux-based devices for their employees?

The first answer is simple: to save time and money. It also allows employees to use a sandbox-like system to isolate, treat and thwart potential cyberattacks. Ultimately, using a virtual machine helps employees protect their mainframe from potential incidents by adding an extra internal barrier between downloaded software and their systems.  

Say an employee gets a link from what looks like a vendor, but they are unsure if the link is safe. In this case, the employee could open and download the link in the virtual machine and test the link's legitimacy — while keeping the system protected regardless of what type of package is waiting within the URL.  

Another use case for this type of system is specific to IT. Say your internal team is deciding which antivirus software to go with and wants to evaluate Avast and McAfee to see which product provides better protection without exposing internal systems to malware. The internal IT team could download the antivirus in their virtual machine, open a malicious link or known cyberthreat, and compare the results without risking their internal system.  

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What are the security risks of a virtual machine?

Given all these benefits, you may be wondering: What are the concerns? If they are so great, why aren't they universal?

Virtual machines are isolated from internal systems. However, a common misconception of virtual machines is that they have their own internal security system. People think that if you activate them within your devices, their internal firewalls will protect your device. And this is simply untrue.  

Just because something is launched in your virtual machine does not mean that your device no longer needs internal protection from external threats. Firewalls and antivirus should still be used on devices in which virtual machines are active to ensure the protection of all of your organization's servers. Having security systems within your virtual machine is encouraged depending on your organization's internal uses for this device.

Really, virtual machines have the same vulnerabilities as normal physical devices and should be treated with the same amount of care for your internal data and your consumers’ valuable data.

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Are virtual machines right for my organization?

The final question most people have is practical: Do virtual machines make sense for my organization?

For starters, it is good to understand the opportunities involved. For most enterprises that have yet to take this journey, now is the perfect time to take your digital work environment to the next level. This way, you can ensure that OS-specific limitations won't hinder employee outputs and that they can enjoy benefits of being able to work on iOS, Windows or Linux devices without switching physical hardware.  

You will also allow your IT team to troubleshoot and secure your online infrastructure problems without the fear of bringing down your entire internal system. Give your programmers the flexibility and dependability of having an on-premises and off-premises solution to their many daily challenges.

With a virtual machine, you get a wide range of options and flexibility — something all organizations can use in this modern environment.

Learn how WWT can help your organization get the most out of virtual machines.